In case you haven’t been watching cyber news recently, last week various security researchers published that Macs were infected by the Flashback Trojan and that the total number of infections worldwide was 600,000.  This number was published by a couple of blogs.

I debated writing about this topic since we had a previous Mac outbreak last year that initially spiked up, caused Apple to go into denial about the affair before issuing a fix, and then the malware kind of went away.  Will this follow the same pattern?

It’s not surprising that Apple is in denial about this; they are very tight lipped and reveal very little about their security procedure.  To both them, and their users, the product is perfect.  Even in the comments section of the following article, users are skeptical that 1 in 100 Macs are infected; it couldn’t really be Macs that are infected, it must be Windows PCs:

Sigh… this 600,000 number is not solid by any stretch and everyone is using it as linkbait all over the Internet.



The truth of the matter is no one else has TRULY confirmed this number and it may very well be Windows machines contributing vastly to these numbers.

Their own admission:

” … The difficulty in identifying what kind of machines are connecting to the C&C servers is that when the user agent from the infected computer communicates with the server, it doesn’t supply definitive data on the operating system that’s installed … ”

The author of this comment obviously has no idea how malware infections are counted.  Yes, it is more art than science but a number of 90% or 98% malwares as an estimate does not mean guess.  It means that given the total amount of data they have, it probably ranges between 80%-98% Macs.  It does not mean that the estimates are off by an order of magnitude and really correspond to Windows machines.

Another comment:

Trojans are NOT viruses! They require a user to be tricked into installing this type of malware onto their own Mac.

This is 2012.  A/V companies don’t even use the term “virus” anymore, they use the term “malware.”  There are various types of malware out there and it doesn’t matter whether users get infected peer-to-peer, or by drive-by downloads, or some other mechanism.

I personally wouldn’t be surprised if the number was far higher or far lower because we are ALL basing these numbers off of ONE company’s data set. ONE company’s word.

One data set doesn’t cut it in the science world. Why are we letting that go in the computer science world right now?

It’s worse than that.  Not only is it one company’s word, it’s probably one guy at that company who came up with the number.  He probably has some ways of counting everything, shares the number with his managers and with marketing, and that’s the number that’s reported.

But it’s also a reasonable estimate of the total number of infections.  Most companies who count data like this have good ways of acquiring it.

No one knowledgeable about the Mac has EVER said that Mac OS X is immune to malware!

No.  Most just deny that malware is a problem on the Mac.